Paranjoy Guha Thakurta was targeted with Pegasus spyware between April and July 2018. Through a forensic analysis, Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International’s Security Lab have confirmed that his phone was successfully compromised and that these infections were consistent with other known infection vectors.
Who is he?
The author of several books, including “The Real Face of Facebook in India,” “Sue the Messenger,” and “Gas Wars: Crony Capitalism and the Ambanis,” Paranjoy Guha Thakurta is a freelance investigative journalist, author and documentary filmmaker.
He has written for The Wire, NewsClick, Business India, Businessworld, The Telegraph, and India Today, doggedly pursuing India’s business elite and political class. At the time of his targeting, Thakurta was working on a story about India’s richest man, Dhirubhai Ambani. Thakurta and co-author Abir Dasgupa accessed internal documents from the Income Tax Department showing how the Ambani family used tax havens to divide assets amongst themselves after the late Dhirubhai Ambani’s death.
In May 2018, Thakurta began a position as a consultant at NewsClick.in, an independent online magazine. While at NewsClick, he was actively investigating the relationship between Facebook and India’s ruling party, the BJP – a project that would later become the book “The Real Face of Facebook in India.” Some of his research was serialized in long-form articles published in NewsClick in the latter half of 2018. Thakurta is no stranger to having his private life mettled with. He told Forbidden Stories that he was made aware of the fact that a “certain individuals who are very, very wealthy and who are among the richest persons in India” have been given access to his personal bank account and had shown him statements as proof of this. He believes one of the reasons for his targeting in 2018 may have been an attempt to learn more about anonymous sources who given him information.
“We speak to a lot of people on condition of anonymity,” he told Forbidden Stories. “They give us information because their names are not disclosed, so the whole idea would be to find out who provided us certain kinds of information.”
"Carving up a Business Empire Through Tax Havens: The Ambani Way" NewsClick (2018)Read
"Is Facebook in India Truly Independent of Political Influence? Not Really – It has Backed Modi and the BJP" NewsClick (2018)Read
The Indian government has never confirmed or denied being a client of NSO Group. “The allegations regarding government surveillance on specific people has no concrete basis or truth associated with it whatsoever,” a spokesperson for the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology wrote in response to detailed questions sent by Forbidden Stories and its partners. NSO Group did not answer Forbidden Stories’ questions on specific targets but said it “will continue to investigate all credible claims of misuse and take appropriate action based on the results of these investigations.”